Episode 4: ‘Two Little Monkeys’ (Mem Fox) and ‘Blue Chameleon’ (Emily Gravett)
THE PURPOSE OF THIS BLOG:
To encourage parents and teachers to read to children (and to educate picture book writers and illustrators about including cognitive elements in their work). The act of reading out loud is not enough. When reading a picture book, or even a middle grade book, we are given a fantastic opportunity to develop an interactive experience with our children.
What is an interactive experience?
This interactive experience does not require any devices. It does require constant interfacing between the adult and the child/children.
When reading to children, you want to deliver the book in a manner that invites the children to participate as active listeners and engages responses from them that grow their minds.
Passive listening is all very well, but the story is soon over, and an opportunity has been lost to use ‘story time’ as a guided exploration of another world, or some subject. I totally understand how often the bedtime story has to be delivered promptly and that there is no time for discussion. I firmly believe however, when possible, an extended period devoted to reading and delving into the text, benefits the child, and is enjoyed by both the adult and the child.
We will be looking at two picture books in this blog.
Since my picture book collection is still in storage, while necessary house repairs take place, I visited our local library.
As an illustrator, the cover illustrations draw my attention. If the cover is appealing, then I will peek inside and see what treasure I can uncover between the pages.
So, what are we reading today?
Two Little Monkeys
Written by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Jill Barton
Published by Puffin Books, Penguin Group, Australia, 2012
The illustrations appear to be done in pencil and watercolour.
This book will appeal to young children (toddlers).
It is a rhyming story, with a strong rhythm, which reminded me a lot of the old nursery rhyme, ‘Two Little Dickie Birds, sitting on a wall, one name Peter, the other name Paul.’
Because of the tight rhythm and neat rhyming, there is a natural cadence when the story is read. Reading picture books, structured in this manner, is fundamental for young brain development. Skills learnt reading books like ‘Two Little Monkeys’ include:
Rhyme recognition and generation – do the words ‘Cheeky’ and ‘Chee’ rhyme? What else rhymes with ‘Cheeky’ and ‘Chee’?
Rhythm development – the ability to clap or tap in time or even to generate new verses in accordance with the rhyming and rhythm patterns laid out in the story.
Memory development – the story is catchy, due to the rhyme and rhythm, and some children will learn the story off by heart.
Sequencing – memorising the story will help children learn to remember the story in order. “What comes after this line if the last word must rhyme with ‘tree’?”
Vocabulary development – marvellous words like ‘prowling’, ‘scramble’, ‘tremble’, and ‘leap’ are used. Most two and three old year children love learning new, ‘big’ or ‘grown-up’ words, and they learn to use these through understanding the context of the story.
Additional lessons that can be learned from this story include:
Stranger danger message – Cheeky and Chee realise that there is someone approaching who does not have their best interests at heart, and from whom they flee. This story can be used by parents and teachers as a springboard for a discussion about this very serious subject.
Clues – If the children analyse the illustrations, they may find that danger lurks from the very first page. Children need to be made aware that vital information can be concealed on a page, and that they need to look for it.
For the aspiring illustrators, one major lesson stood out:
Limited colour palette – Jill Barton kept the colour palette very simple. She did not use every colour available. Cohesion between the illustrations is maintained throughout the entire book. The palette is very neutral, but beautiful, red berries are introduced for the exciting conclusion of the story.
Mem Fox has written many delightful children’s picture books and is Australian.
Jill Barton has also illustrated numerous picture books and lives in the United Kingdom.
Written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
Published by Two Hoots, Pan Macmillan, United Kingdom, 2010
The illustrations were created using pencil, watercolour and coloured pencils.
I love chameleons, so I could not pass by this picture book!
This story is perfect for young children. Although a quick read (the word count is only 51 words!), there is so much scope for discussion.
Emily Gravett introduces colour and texture to children in this story, and yet, the book is not about colour and texture. She cleverly utilises them to drive the simple, yet profound, storyline.
In short, Chameleon is lonely. He tries to make friends with a host of other creatures and solitary objects.
As we have all been raised to believe, chameleons change colour to camouflage with their surroundings, and this is what Chameleon does, but still he is lonely, until…DRUMROLL, please…he finally meets another chameleon!
The satisfactory ending in no way negates the need for me to point out that chameleons do not actually change colour to match their surroundings.
Apparently, according to my internet research, chameleons change colour as a response to mood, temperature, health, communication, and light.
Lessons to be learnt from this lovely book:
Colour identification – kids love colour and this book is great way to check that they know their colours.
Pattern and texture discussion – chat about the patterns and textures shown in the illustrations.
Science – explain that chameleons do change colour, and but teach them when they actually do.
Emotional and social lesson – that we are not alone. Even if we do not fit in with everyone else, there is someone out there who we will get along with. We just need to keep our eyes open.
May this be a lesson to me and other verbose children’s authors, that picture books can be written with just 51 words!
Keep illustrations super simple. Although Emily Gravett utilises props for her protagonist, she did not illustrate the background!
Recently I have been trying to blog twice a month, but time is not on my side, so I am returning to once-monthly blogs. I will be alternating months between illustration-themed blogs, and picture book reviews with cognitive insights. Please join me this time next month for another an illustration blog, where I will be discussing my recent experience opening a Redbubble store, from which my illustrations can be purchased on a wide range of products.